Peggy Levison Nolan photos reflect life as a mother and artist – ARTnews.com
Peggy Levison Nolan’s first solo exhibition in a museum hints at the artist’s years of training with her youngest daughter, Stella. Nolan’s seven children populate her work, particularly in this display at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, but Stella appears twice in the passenger seat of her mother’s car, once in a larger copy where she holds a tiny device. photo, and more. tenderly in Untitled (Stella with Rose), ch. 1990. Here, Stella has a baby’s face, itchy and visibly exhausted, lounging in her seat, one leg hanging capriciously out of the window – limbs weighing heavy in the Florida heat. His forehead is almost wrinkled. His T-shirt is stained. The window crank, blurred by the shallow depth of field, shines in the sun. During this time, the rose she is holding is not faded and fresh; you can almost imagine its sweet scent.
Nolan’s father gave him a Nikon when Stella was three; she was immediately “hooked,” she said, and began to capture images of her growing family, the intricacies and privacy of their lives in the working-class neighborhoods of South Florida. His camera was still there; this show, “Blueprint for a Good Life”, covers his early works in black and white: his children and their friends dance, bake birthday cakes and fall into each other’s arms, initially streaked mud, then agitated, then body-pierced. With equal love for his medium and his children, Nolan strengthens their growth; in front of his lens, they blossom into young adults.
Speaking of flowers: in Stella with Rose, the preteen seems resigned to the continued presence of the camera. Visibly irritated, she remains participatory, even confrontational, staring directly at her mother. The space between Nolan’s documentary impulse and maternal care here is singularly slippery, and so striking: how clearly the photographer in her saw the right light, the unexpected prop and the brevity of the moment, while as a mother she could have just said, wait, let’s take a picture with the flower.